New Castle County outfits police with body cameras
Ten police officers in New Castle County will be outfitted with body cameras, the department announced Thursday.
At a press conference, the department showed a video from a recent traffic stop in Claymont. A county police officer can be seen and heard walking up to the window of a black pick-up truck that ran a stop sign.
Department spokesman Tom Jackson says the body cameras will be used "to improve evidence collection, to strengthen officer performance and accountability, to enhance agency transparency, to document encounters between police and the public, and to investigate and resolve complaints and officer-involved incidents." He says the cameras are the new normal in good policework.
"This is just kind of what society's called for -- it's become part of policing," he says. "It also enables us, the police department, to demonstrate transparency and openness in our interactions with the community."
The department is deploying the pilot program cameras mainly on patrol officers. That's on top of their in-car dash cameras, which Jackson says don't catch everything.
"The majority of our stuff is done out of the car-- outside a traffic stop, we're out of the car doing investigations, we're doing interviews, we're walking into crime scenes, we're doing all kinds of things outside the car," he says. "And I think we're going to have a lot more footage come forth with the body cameras."
That means more data for the department to store -- and that can be expensive. They're already maxed out with dash cam footage, so Jackson says the pilot program will help them find out how much more storage they'll need to buy for the body cameras.
They'll also be testing different brands of cameras before outfitting more of their 380-person police force. The first cameras New Castle is testing run around $900 apiece.
Jackson declined to release the department's full policy on when officers have to turn the body cameras on, because it's still in development. At this point, he says officers will generally use the cameras in "any enforcement action, traffic or pedestrian stop," plus other calls to service.
They'll have discretion to turn them off in sensitive situations, like while speaking with witnesses or tipsters who don't want to be recorded.
Jackson says the department will refine its body camera use policy as they move forward with the initial deployment. He says they may pare down the situations where it's needed if they get overwhelmed with footage.
This New Castle County police body camera video had its audio removed for use at the department's Thursday press conference. To see and hear the traffic stop on dash camera, click here.